An open letter to the owners of Birmingham City FC
On October 17th 2016 Trillion Trophy Asia (TTA) became the largest shareholder in Birmingham International Holdings, the ultimate owner of Birmingham City, as then it was known. At that time Blues were 6th in the league having finished 10th in the previous two seasons. Since then they have diluted their ownership somewhat but are still the largest shareholder in the company with 30.6% of the shares; Ever Depot and Dragon Villa, also investment vehicles like TTA are the other significantly sized shareholders. Between them these three entities own approximately 75% of the holding company.
During the TTA era it is fair to say that the club have not progressed on the field. If anything, they have significantly regressed, having not finished higher than 17th since TTA’s involvement.
Following Pep Clotet’s departure, the Blues Trust wish to write an open letter to the owners of the club urging them to take three key actions to help try and achieve improved success on the field – something that we believe is in both the owners and fans interests.
Firstly, we believe it is imperative that the club have a sustainable coherent business plan and strategy. So far, this has been entirely lacking, leading to the continued malaise on the pitch that saw Blues scrapping to avoid relegation for the fourth time in recent years.
Early on in TTA’s reign, under Harry Redknapp, there was a focus on spending and bringing experienced players. At the beginning of this season there seemed to have been a shift with a focus on youth and buying younger players with a view to developing them and then selling them on. This seems a more sustainable strategy, but it is important that the club develop a clear detailed roadmap over several years and sticks with it even if there are setbacks on the way and success is not achieved overnight. An exemplar here are Brentford – they have a clear long-term strategy, have carefully implemented measures to sustain it, and are now reaping the rewards.
Secondly, we believe that the club need to appoint a quality manager, demonstrate faith in and commitment to him, and give him space to manage as he sees fit.
Since TTA took over, the club have appointed 5 ‘permanent’ managers in the space of less than 4 years. No manager has managed two full seasons under TTA, and only Gary Monk has survived for one full season. Looking at most successful sides they have a degree of managerial continuity that enables a team to evolve and develop and become successful over the seasons rather than tearing it down and starting again at the first setback, which has been the story under TTA. It is also critical that the manger is allowed to develop the side without interference. There should be a clear delineation between the responsibilities for managing the team and the overall running of the club.
Finally, we believe that the senior management of the club and Board at Birmingham City needs overhaul in order to bring in the sort of experience required to support a successful long-term goal.
The TTA era has seen several managerial sackings and appointments without ever being able to appoint and retain a manager who has been successful. None of the five managers appointed since 2016 has had a win ratio superior to Gary Rowett before he was sacked. Over the same period there has been a loss of highly experienced back room staff at the club and two EFL charges.
We understand that the owners’ preference to appoint senior management at the club in whom they have trust, but the track record of the current incumbents – particularly that of the CEO – is extremely poor, and has demonstrated no evidence of the wherewithal to improve.
We therefore implore the owners to look at the leadership structure of the club, and make meaningful changes in the club’s best interests.
It goes without saying that we do not wish to see TTA fail and the cycle of disappointment continue. On the contrary, we want them to succeed and to make the football club a force to be reckoned with once again. But to achieve that we firmly believe that a change of approach is essential and a more long-term consistent strategy required. Truly successful football clubs are built over time. They are very seldom thrown together.
As long-standing supporters and as Trust members, we urge the owners to be mindful of this when considering their next step.
As long-standing supporters and as a Trust, we would welcome an opportunity for open dialogue going forward.
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